Difficult entry & exit of kayak

I am an elderly lady and have had to put my recreational kayaking on hold for a couple of years. Now I want to get back to it, but I find I have balance problems getting in and out of a kayak - I can only enter and exit by “falling in” and “falling out” - embarrassing and messy, at best. Does anyone make, or have suggestions for making, a bar or hand-hold, to put across the cockpit for easing this process? I have loved kayaking, and really miss it. Will appreciate any suggestions.

Try a canoe?
Seriously, I’m not trying to be cute.

Have you
tried straddling your kayak in shallow water, hold onto each side then sit down & then put your legs in? Yes your feet get wet, but balance isn’t a big deal with this technique as long as you’re only in a few inches of water.

Are you using the paddle to help?
Or are you trying to step into the boat? Balance should not be an issue if you know how to use the paddle as a brace from the boat to the shore behind you (though strength sometimes is). But it is hard to figure out a way to help without knowing how you are trying to get in and out to start with.

Have had same problem
Got tired of supplying the folks at the take-out with a comedy routine.

I’ve switched to SOT’s for this very reason.

I’ve done the straddle which helped getting in. It was lifting myself out that was hard.

Using the paddle helped some, but you’re still sitting on the paddle, which is very low. Rising up from that is difficult.

I had thought of designing a walker-type contraption that would straddle the boat and give me a handhold to pull myself up. My arm strength is pretty good, it’s my legs that don’t work so well anymore.

Instead of that, I went to SOT’s but canoes would work also.

Getting older ain’t for sissy’s!!

I second…
…the sit-on-top solution. There are some very nice SOTs’ out there. Some even have cup holders… gotta love that.

Canoes can be tricky also…
for people having difficulty entering and exiting recreational kayaks with large cockpits - especially the pack canoes with seats near the bottom of the boat.

What is your launch site like?
Shallow water that you can stand in while entering & exiting the boat?

From shore or dock where you can’t step in the water first?

Something else?

Where do you hold on to?
If you press with your hand and feet down the center of the kayak (not on the sides), even the most unstable kayak is rock solid. If you can’t bend around to do that, then you should see if you can use the paddle for support. You can put it behind the cockpit extended to one side and resting on shore, then hold on to the paddle as you enter. You weight will keep it in place, especially if the rear of the kayak has some sort of channel made specifically for this kind of situation so the paddle fits in it nicely.

Practice in warm shallow water -:wink:

Straddling is an option too, if the kayak is not of the 4-foot wide variety…

If you don’t mind getting your bottom wet, you might consider a sit on top. All sorts out there, with makers like Epic Kayaks having high-end lightweight versions like the V6 touring that would also be easy to carry yet fast on the water.

SOTs vary
Some SOTs are very dry rides. I have a Manta Ray 14 that a 200 lb person could stay completely dry with in calm conditions. And I have put several folks on it in mild whitewater who have physical limitations without a problem. They might need a hand to get out easily, but it’s like getting up from sitting on the ground or a low seat. In warm water, you might simple exit in a couple of feet of water and walk up from there. In that scenario, it’s much easier than a sit-in or canoe.


Some ideas:

–a longer cockpit will assist entry and egress ergonomics greatly, so as mentioned, you can sit down into the ckpt and then lift your legs inside. Upon exiting you may then be able to reverse this procedure. Gently sloped & shallow landings will assist as well as low sided ckpt coamings.

  • if your yak is stable on entry and exit, a 2ndary assist is use a bridle or line from the ckpt forward. The simplest is just a bow line that you can grab onto to pull on as you try and levitate, while another could be an actual loop of thicker bungee that is a cross deckline that can double as your bungee bridle (taughtness should be adjusted so that stretch stops at required length). As this attaches at 2 points (say near each perimeter line) it will give some triangular stability as you balance to get up (ie even 2 hands can be used).

  • Maybe take an opposite position to that of the primary ‘pretty & delicate’ paddle and have your main paddle be a cheap & strong beater. (and have your ‘good’ paddle carefully premounted on your deck for the serious use.) Then sit on it, scrape it on shore, fall on it – all to your heart’s content and to the limit of its ability to assist you to get in and beat around the shore. And who knows – if there is limited benefit to removing plastic kayak hair, it just may be a better drag engine to have a scratched up hairy paddle as the drag characteristics are increased. A non-wing paddle’s main propulsive function is as a drag device n’est-ce pas?

  • But yaks usually aren’t stable on exit, so a paddlefloat lock system helps so that you can rigidly attach the paddle to the kayak hands free to prevent tipping at least to one side on entry/exit. Try, in most cases, to sidle up to the shore so that the locked paddle blade engages the beach with minimal tipping. Along this line –espec with a low rockered boat – do not beach the boat either bow or stern prior to entry or do not drive the bow or stern onto the beach prior to exit. In either case the axis of rotation of the yak is so lowered that any 2ndary stabilization from bouyancy is eliminated – best default is side entry/exit. However if there is a localized, yak sized, depression in the beach/shore this could be a great stabilized location.

  • scorned but possibly useful for this purpose may be a set of sponsons that get inflated on entry/exit – and that can be slightly shifted to echo the slope of the beach to stabilize on side approached entry exit. The same idea could be extended to any paddlefloat with a short beam width line that is clipped to one perimeter line but located on the open water side of the yak. Combined with a rigidly fixed paddle blade on shore side may also make a fairly decent stable setup.

    Anyway some ideas,


This might be what you need?
Swedish manufacturer Vitudden Kajakvarv (VKV) have a simple product that adresses your problem. However it’s made to fit their kayaks and might not fit your.


This is a really nice video that could serve as inspiration for your own solution.


OT: Here is an article about VKV and its long history


SOT, yes
I have a pack canoe, a SINK, and a SOT. Just recovering from total hip replacement, I find the SOT to be the easiest to enter and exit, although I have paddled all three boats post-op.

A modification to my last post based upon what siriushf showed us would be the whole variety of uses of the previously mentioned deck and other lines combined with the spare paddle or half paddle.

Firstly the kayak needs to be stabilized in some manner (let’s assume weight, flexibility, and/or balance are likely issues) especially as a highly located lever arm will readily tip any kayak over if any weight is applied up high in any manner off centre. So assuming the kayak is stabilized:

-Some sort of simple keel fitting looks to be very useful - but if not fitted, the easiest alternative would be placing the paddle vertically at the coaming front, a few wraps of the bow line up high on the paddle shaft – and then any weight applied rearwards (only) will be restrained by the line and the coaming front.

-a next alternative would be the heavy bungee cross deck line that the half paddle was inserted thru, shaft placed vertically on keel-inside at coaming front, shaft held with one hand highish above deck with loop over and bungee length to allow shaft to be vertical at bottomed out stretch. That would give the same rearward only stability as the bow line. If one had the strength to wrap a finger or two around the loop centre on while holding the shaft, some side stabilization all of a sudden becomes possible.And If however there was a small loop in the cross line that could restrain the shaft, then there would be better triangulated side stability as well. In either of the cases above, it’d be best if there was some indication/assist on the shaft to locate where it was best to be held as it would not work well if setup and held low. It would certainly have to be mocked up to see what the limitations/possibilities were.

-If it was my boat, I’d just modify the water bottle receptacle (or hull stiffener or pillar) between my legs with a slot or hole (glued to if a structural member) to accept blade or shaft and maybe drill a tiny loop/clip of line/webbing right at the coaming front. Then the setup is triangulated, concealed, and continually present. Heck it just might become a new standard setup as it costs nothing to provide, heh heh.

-It also might make sense to roughen up the interior hull surface where the feet would be placed when trying to stand or be pulled up as some yaks possibly are a little slick there. At least it might minimize some slippage.

Anyway, other ideas.

I’m not loving this one

– Last Updated: Dec-06-12 3:30 PM EST –

Admittedly I couldn't open the video. It requires software that is not in running shape on this PC. But from the picture, it seems awfully dependent on the situation - a handy dock of the right height, good balance and flexibility on the part of the paddler etc.

The pole could help with pulling up. But it doesn't seem to totally fix the issue of transferring weight to the dock. I don't see anything that stops the kayak from sliding sideways while the paddler is still hanging valiantly onto the pole and risks whacking their head on the dock.

I Have an Elderly Hip
Maybe that qualifies me to give you advice. I broke my hip some years back and it will always be weaker than my unbroken one. Here’s how I compensate:

I own only keyhole cockpits. To get in I go to shallow water, straddle the boat, plop the butt in the seat then bring in leg and leg.

To get out I go to shallow water. Bring out leg and leg; USE ARMS TO LIFT AT THE COAMING AND GET BUTT TO THE BACK DECK. Getting my butt up to the back deck lets me get my feet and legs under me to help hoist me out.

I’m doubtful any device is going to help you. Exercises might. Try simulating the motions in your living room. A lot.

SIT on TOP easy exit and entry
It is not like getting up from the ground or a low seat if you do it right.


1 Start in knee deep water.

2 Face out from the side of the cockpit.

3 Sit down

4 Swing your legs out.


1 Start in knee deep water.

2 I mean it. push the boat back out to knee deep water or it will be really hard.

3 Swing both legs out to one side.

4 Stand up.

Sit on tops are much easier to enter or exit than canoes or most any other boat.

The biggest problem folks have is trying it in shallow water, because it is like getting up of the ground. Old folks have a hard time getting up off the ground.

The cockpit rim gets in the way if you try this with a sit inside.

1 Like

You don’t have to love it…
I agree it will not solve everyones problems or even yours. But if the OP have problems entering from a dock I think she should at least have a look at the video to see if it might help her with the specific problems she is experiencing. I think best to let the OP decide what suits her needs. Her needs may differ from yours.

I myself have no such issues but having helped hundreds of paddlers in and out of their boats I can see how this product would be helpful for many elderly people lacking in strength and/or mobility.

I’ll say it more directly then

– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 7:57 AM EST –

I lead evening paddles in the warm weather for a large local group with lots of aging folks, many of whom are dealing with post-surgical knees, weight issues and quite a lot of weakness in the upper body. I and the other trip leaders usually spend some amount of time helping newer paddlers, many of whom are also older paddlers, out of their boats back at the launch. My concerns about the risk of this device are based on actual experience.

The shift of weight to a non-sitting position that is pictured for this device is the most dangerous phase, and the one that has most sends people into the water or the boat sliding sideways away from the dock. The physical position pictured, with the paddler crouching while still fully above the cockpit, sets up a risky balance point.

For the scenario pictured, if there is a problem I tend to get the person's upper body weight over the dock earlier. Then the worst that happens is they get wet legs and someone has to retrieve their boat.

I am able to get in and out of a boat just about any way I need, without any device including a paddle. It is necessary for the places we prefer to paddle. But this device sets up as many risks as it solves issues.

Using the back deck as a transition point, as suggested by Kudzu, is device-free and keeps the weight low enough to help be safer. I use that for things like tall docks and have advised others to do the same if the paddle as a brace isn't working for them. Sometimes it doesn't due to strength issues, but mostly it helps.

Open your mind
Ok, I’ll be direct with you as well. Why don’t you let the OP be the judge of wether this might be a good idea for her or not?

My “actual” experince is that this would be helpful for many elderly or unfit paddlers I have helped launching from a dock. But as neither you or I know the specific needs of the OP or even if she is using a dock or a beach, all I suggest is that we leave it to her to decide. Since she is not new to paddling she is probably the best judge of what might be helpful to her?

If you could watch the video you would realise that this very simple product will leave you with one hand free to place on the dock. Hence no problem with balance or with the boat sliding away as you suggested. Besides, since 75 year old Ingvar in the video find it helpful it would not seem too far fetched to think that others might find it useful to, would it? Or do you suggest that Ingvar is uncomparable to everyone else in the world?

All I am saying is that this is one more option that may or may not help the OP. Why slam it if some already found it helpful?